Psalms 78-79 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?

From Psalms 78-79

19 Psalms Fragment

Today’s reading only had two Psalms. I have not chosen the first because it is long and to cut it short would not do justice to it. I recommend reading it however if you have time. Today we look at another of Asaph’s Psalms. Asaph seems to be writing when Judah was undergoing punishment by the LORD. They have defiled the temple and laid Jerusalem in ruins. Exile must be coming.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;

they have defiled your holy temple;

they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

2 They have given the bodies of your servants

to the birds of the heavens for food,

the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.

3 They have poured out their blood like water

all around Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors,

mocked and derided by those around us. (Ps 79.1-4)

Judah has been invaded by foreigners. A while ago I listed from Deuteronomy the curses associated with covenant disobedience. As a reminder these include being defeated by enemies (Dt 28.25-26). That is what has just happened. The temple has been desecrated and the city sacked. The remaining curses are exile and captivity (Dt 28.41-44). They have lost so badly that they have been ridiculed by the other nations around them.

5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?

Will your jealousy burn like fire?

6 Pour out your anger on the nations

that do not know you,

and on the kingdoms

that do not call upon your name!

7 For they have devoured Jacob

and laid waste his habitation. (Ps 79.5-7)

The LORD of course is angry with Judah. He is jealous because they have committed idolatry and abandoned him as their God. Asaph pleads with the LORD to punish those who have punished Judah. They do not know the LORD, but they have mistreated his people. The LORD will punish the nations he has used to punish his people.

8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;

let your compassion come speedily to meet us,

for we are brought very low.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation,

for the glory of your name;

deliver us, and atone for our sins,

for your name’s sake!

10 Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants

be known among the nations before our eyes! (Ps 79.8-10)

Asaph cries out for forgiveness, salvation and atonement. The sole prerogative of God’s people. The LORD is compassionate and forgiving as well as just and holy. Part of the incentive he uses is for the LORD’s names sake. If his people are cast down, the LORD’s name will not be esteemed. We will look at this in greater detail when we check out Ezekiel 36.

11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;

according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!

12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors

the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!

13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,

will give thanks to you forever;

from generation to generation we will recount your praise (Ps 79.11-13)

Judah has been doomed to die, its people cast into slavery. Asaph pleads for their life and cries out for vengeance on their enemies who have treated them thus. They have not only taunted Judah, in doing so they have taunted the LORD. Asaph ends on a confident note. He knows the LORD will answer his prayer.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Its not until much later that the LORD will do so. Isaiah in a similar note describes the punishment of Judah and predicts their forgiveness (pardon).

40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her

that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

4 Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all flesh shall see it together,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa 40.1-5)

Story of Jesus

This is the restoration the disciples were expecting and asked Jesus about after he died and rose again. As Luke records.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1.4-6)

The LORD does restore Israel, but the kingdom Jesus inaugurated was not what they were expecting. Soon afterward the LORD gave the Holy Spirit to the believers at Pentecost and Peter delivered his first big gospel sermon converting a few thousand (Acts 2). The Jews who rejected Jesus tried to stop Peter and the apostles from preaching.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5.27-32)

The forgiveness of sins Peter is speaking of here is that Asaph and Isaiah looked forward for. Asaph cried out for forgiveness, salvation and atonement. God answered his prayer in Jesus. God did restore Israel and give her forgiveness of sins after the long period prophesied. But the forgiveness offered includes more than just Israel (and Judah). It can be experienced by all Gentiles who come to Jesus.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.